Dear Commons Community,
The New York Daily News and the New York Times reported yesterday that parents of 13 current and former students of Success Academy filed a complaint with U.S. Education Department on Wednesday, accusing the charter school network of discriminating against students with disabilities by denying them accommodations and in some cases pushing them out.
Success Academy is a network of 34 charter schools in New York City known for its strict disciplinary policies. Its critics have long asserted that Success pushes out underperforming or difficult students, which the network denies. As reported in The Daily News:
“The city’s largest charter school chain has been violating the civil rights of students with disabilities for years, a group of parents say in a formal complaint lodged Wednesday with the U.S. Department of Education.
The parents of 13 special needs students claim the Success Charter Network, which is run by former City Councilwoman Eva Moskowitz, “has engaged in ongoing systemic policies that violate” federal laws protecting the disabled. It cites eight Success schools in Manhattan, Brooklyn and the Bronx where the parents’ children were enrolled.
The allegations include:
- refusing to provide special education pupils appropriate services required by law, while often retaining the students to repeat a grade;
- multiple suspensions of students without keeping formal records of all those actions, without the due process required by federal law, and without providing alternative instruction;
- harassing parents to transfer their children back into regular public schools; and even calling 911 to have children as young as 5 transported to emergency rooms when parents don’t pick them up immediately as requested.
“Charter schools like Success Academy should follow the same rules as traditional public schools and protect — not punish — children with disabilities,” Public Advocate Letitia James said.
James joined the complaint, as did City Councilman Daniel Dromm, chair of the council’s Education Committee, and five private non-profit legal advocacy groups. All are calling for federal action.
The charter network did not immediately address the specific allegations.
“We are not in a position to comment on a complaint that we have not seen,” Ann Powell, a spokeswoman for Success Charter Network, said. “We are proud to serve 1,400 students who have special needs.”
This action has been long in coming. It will be interesting to see how the charter-school friendly U.S. Department of Education pursues this complaint.